Roasted Tomato Pasta

I had a rare and blissful night last week where the only person who needed dinner at my house was me. My kids had bounced from one end-of-the-school-year party to another all afternoon and evening eating their weight in hot dogs and chips. They were so amped up on sugar and their new-found summer freedom they couldn’t be convinced to come in for a real meal. My husband was working late which gave me two options: make something special just for me or skip dinner altogether.

I finally corralled my kids inside, threw them into showers and settled them in front of a movie. I surveyed the kitchen for something to eat and was just about to pour myself a bowl of cereal when the pint of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter caught my eye.

Instantly I knew I wanted to roast the tomatoes in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If I had a loaf of sourdough bread, I probably would have just scooped the tomatoes onto toast and called it dinner. But I didn’t so I went to the next best thing, pasta.

Fifteen minutes later I had a pot of spaghetti noodles tossed with tangy and bright roasted tomatoes. A big pile of chopped basil from the pplant growing on my patio and swirl of goat cheese made for a decadent but light dinner. A little glass of red wine and eating my dinner in (relative) peace outside in the warm evening sunshine made my simple meal absolute perfection.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

  • 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons (or more) chopped fresh basil
  • 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While the oven preheats, start a pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat. When the water boils, cook spaghetti to package instructions (about 8 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the tomatoes evenly on the tray. Mince garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes and garlic in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes begin to burst and are very fragrant.

In a pot, combine the cooked spaghetti and roasted tomatoes, scraping the pan to add the juices and garlic. Toss gently to combine. Mix in chopped basil and goat cheese. To serve, portion the pasta onto a plate. Garnish with any leftover basil and goat cheese as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

I am officially the mom of big kids. My youngest ‘graduated’ from preschool last week and will attend kindergarten with her brothers at their elementary school in the fall. To say she is excited and ready would be an understatement.

For seven straight years I’ve had at least one preschooler. Most of that time I was also holding a grumpy toddler or wrangling an infant car seat while also attempting to get my preschooler to school. I was the mom with the spilled coffee and spit up on her shirt, just trying to make it through the day hour by hour. Those were some wild years and at times I thought they would never end.

And now suddenly here we are. On to the next season of life. It seems like all those hard and beautiful days were over in the blink of an eye. The more seasoned moms in my life constantly remind me that time only speeds up. I believe them.

I am looking forward to summer break, to soaking up time with my three wild and crazy big kids. I won’t think too much about kindergarten but instead try and squeeze every drop of fun out of our days together. I’m sure as the dog-days of summer catch up to us, school and structure won’t seem like such a bad idea.

After preschool graduation we had a little celebration. I whipped up these special puff pastries stuffed with cheese and prosciutto and thin pieces of asparagus. The buttery and flaky pastry with a rich and savory filling was out-of-this-world delicious. Puff pastry can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store, usually near the frozen desserts. Simply allow the pastry to thaw on the counter or in your refrigerator until the dough is very cold but not frozen anymore. We made a big bowl of fruit salad to go along with our pastries but this dish could easily be served for lunch or dinner alongside a simple green salad. Served warm or at room temperature, you can swap the filling for whatever kinds of meat or cheese you prefer. Brie, smoke gouda or sharp cheddar are lovely cheeses to try as well.

 

Puff Pastry with Havarti, Prosciutto and Asparagus

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 9 squares
  • 4-5 slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lightly roll out the pastry so the dough is even and has no creases. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 9 squares.

Rinse asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel. Select the thinnest spears and cut them in half. Discard the bottom half the spears and set the tops aside.

To make the puff pastries, layer half a slice of cheese, one slice of prosciutto and two to three spears of asparagus diagonally on the puff pastry. Fold two corners over the filling. Place the pastry on the baking sheet and continue until all nine puff pastry squares have been filled.

In a small bowl, whisk an egg with a splash of water until well combined. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the pastries with the egg wash. Sprinkle the pastries with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes.

When the pastries are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and melted, they are finished baking. Allow them to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before serving.

Hummus with Jalapeño Pesto and Marinated Olive And Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter at all and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden or picked up at the farmer’s market during one of our leisurely Sunday strolls. I look forward to the farmer’s market (and my favorite fruit stand) opening all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, it’s been a regular weekend tradition and somehow signifies to my brain ‘summer is just around the bend.’

This idea, of course, is ridiculously preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss on its very best year, not to mention not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. But never mind that. My point is that my adoration for our wonderful agriculturally rich Valley goes into overdrive and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, growing and ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas to add additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smokey, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad.

Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp buttery chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal I can think of.

Hummus

• 2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup tahini

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic

• Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

• 1 bunch cilantro

• ½ bunch parsley

• 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces

• 1 jalapeno chili, stem and seeds removed

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic

• Juice of 1 lime

• Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 1 ½ cups olive oil

• 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)

• 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

• 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.

A Darn Good Veggie Sandwich

I know a vegetable sandwich doesn’t exactly scream exciting, but hang in here with me for a moment.  The secret to this sandwich is the absolutely delicious and slightly decadent herbed goat cheese spread you make. Excellent on this sandwich, you can find many other ways to use it. Case in point: the day I put this recipe together, we had steak for dinner. Guess what was out of this world delicious as a dollop on our steaks? Herbed goat cheese spread. It was great on our baked potatoes and my kids used it as a dip for their cucumbers too. I’m telling you, if you don’t want to make the sandwich, no problem, but don’t skip the spread. You’ll find lots of uses for it.

But back to the recipe, personally, I love a good sandwich. And this one checks all the boxes: crunchy, creamy, full of flavor and good for you.  Toasted sourdough bread is liberally spread with herbed goat cheese spread. From there, layers of thinly sliced red bell pepper, shredded carrot, sliced English cucumber, tomato, radish and spinach leaves get piled high. A generous sprinkle of black pepper and the sandwich is complete. Of course, you could swap out vegetables for what you have on hand or are in the mood for. Just slice your vegetables thinly so they are easy to layer. And if you need a little turkey or chicken thrown in to make those vegetables a little more appetizing, by all means, do it.

I signed up with Pacific Northwest Fresh a few weeks ago. Locally owned here in Yakima, each week Pacific Northwest Fresh delivers a box of produce right to your doorstep. During the warmer seasons all the produce featured in the weekly boxes comes from family-owned farms from the Yakima Valley. With the flexibility to sign up week to week as well as choose from three different sized boxes, I look forward to Thursday’s when I know my box will be delivered.

These weekly deliveries are accomplishing two important things for me: the first is that I’m eating more local fruit and vegetables and the second is I’m forced (slightly) out of my comfort zone by having ingredients on hand that I wouldn’t necessarily choose at the grocery store. (Anybody have a good collard greens recipe??) It’s just the nudge I need to experiment with new flavors.

Darn Good Veggie Sandwich

  • 2 slices sourdough or multi-grain bread
  • Spinach
  • English cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Radish
  • Tomato
  • 4 ounces plain goat cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon basil leaves, minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

In a medium bowl combine goat cheese, heavy cream, parsley, basil, and lemon zest. Use a spatula to stir ingredients until they are well-incorporated. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Taste to make sure you like the flavor and add more salt or herbs if desired.

To make the sandwich, start by thinly slicing the vegetables so they are roughly the same thickness. Consider shredding the carrot with a box grater.

Toast the bread. Spread the herbed goat cheese liberally on both sides of the bread. Layer the vegetables on one piece of bread. Sprinkle with black pepper and top with the other slice of bread, goat cheese side down. Press gently down on the sandwich to help combine the ingredients and using a sharp knife, slice the sandwich in half.

Store the remaining goat cheese spread in an air-tight container in the refrigerator to up to 3 days. This recipe will make up to six sandwiches or ingredients can be stored in the refrigerator to make one sandwich at a time.

Pineapple Cucumber Salsa

This time of year, I crave fresh bright flavors. Sweet pineapple and cool crunchy cucumber combine to make the most delicious salsa. I like to make a big batch and store in my refrigerator all week for snacking as well as an easy topping for grilled chicken or fish. One of my favorite and easy dinners is simply marinating wild Alaskan salmon in store-bought teriyaki sauce. Grill on the barbecue for about 10 minutes until just barely cooked through and easily flaked with a fork. Top the salmon with a generous scoop of the pineapple cucumber salsa and serve over rice. Last week I made barbecued pulled pork in my instant pot. The kids ate theirs on a bun but Aaron and I piled our pork with the pineapple cucumber salsa and a few pickled jalapenos. It was so good!

As with just about every recipe I offer, this is one you can tweak and change to meet your preferences. When I first started making this salsa, I used mango, which is yummy and wonderful, and I highly recommend. I often use frozen pineapple in place of fresh, just leaving the frozen fruit out on my counter to thaw. If you don’t have an English cucumber, just use a regular one. Cut the vegetable in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Dice up as called for and you’ll never know the difference. Add more or less jalapeno, depending on how spicy you like your salsa but don’t skip the cilantro and lime zest, that’s what brings all the flavors together

Pineapple Cucumber Salsa

·         2 cups fresh pineapple, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         2 cups English cucumber, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         1 cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced into ½ inch pieces

·         1 large shallot, minced

·         1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced

·         1 bunch cilantro, minced

·         2 limes, zest and juice

·         Salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine the pineapple, cucumber, bell pepper, shallot and jalapeno. Stir gently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the zest and juice of both limes as well as the cilantro. Stir gently again and garnish with coarse sea salt.

Store leftover salsa in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Serves 6-8 people.

Sesame Noodle Bowl

Well it’s been a hot minute hasn’t it?

Right on cue I hit that every three-month or so slump of losing my creativity. I couldn’t think of anything to cook. I had no words to write. Post-vacation blues probably had something to do with it. The never-ending cycle of dishes from feeding five people three times a day might have a little something to do with it too.

I did however get the Faux Martha’s new cookbook, The Minimalist Kitchen and What’s Gaby Cooking. I’ve thumbed through both cookbooks, marking recipes. I think they’re just the shot of new energy and inspiration I’m needing.

In the meantime there’s always this sesame noodle bowl. Which is SO easy and delicious and the perfect canvas for tons of veggies and any kind of protein you like. I cooked a whole chicken in my instant pot and shredded it for this recipe but seared salmon, flank steak or crispy tofu would all be delicious.

Will you judge me if I admit I’ve made this recipe three times now? I’ve used different noodles each time and added different combinations of toppings. I think it’s my new stand-by. I can’t get enough.

Sesame Noodle Bowl (recipe adapted from the cookbook Chloe Flavor)

  • 10 ounces noodles (you can use phad thai rice noodles, udon, soba or spaghetti)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (use as little or as much as you like, this gives the sauce a kick)
  • 4-6 ounces cooked chicken, diced (about 2 medium chicken breasts)
  • Green onion, slivered
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Cook noodles to package instructions. When cooked, drain water and set aside. In a blender or food processor combine sesame oil, vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, garlic and sriracha. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl combine noodles with cooked chicken. Pour the sauce over everything and gently mix until the sauce is well-incorporated. Garnish with slivered green onion and chopped cilantro.

This dish can be served warm or cold. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

*The top photo shows this recipe made with rice noodles and chicken. The bottom photo shows the same recipe with udon noodles, carrots, broccoli and snap peas.

Spring Salad Flatbread

As the weather begins to shift, my taste buds seem to be doing the same. I don’t want the soups and roasts that sustained us through the winter. I’m ready for fresh, light and bright flavor.

A friend of mine visited a few weeks ago and as our kids ran through the house laughing and playing, we decided we should probably feed them (and ourselves) at some point. I started rummaging through my fridge looking for things the kids would want to eat. I pulled some naan bread from the freezer and we made the kids easy cheese pizzas. Naan bread, if you aren’t familiar, is a Middle Eastern flatbread similar to a pita bread. It is soft and chewy and makes an excellent pizza crust stand-in. You can certainly make it at home but you can also buy it at your local grocery store in the bakery section. I typically keep a package in my freezer for quick meals when we need them.

We eat a lot of pizza at my house. It seems to be our go-to meal. I’m sure it has something to do with having three young kids in the house but I also like experimenting with flavors and ingredients. I’ve been dreaming about an wood fire pizza oven. We’re planning on updating our patio space a little but my husband wants a Traeger. Which, in all fairness, I could probably make some mean pizza on that too. We’ll see. It’s fun to dream about summer nights spent outside. Pizza oven or not.

I decided to take a stab at an artichoke and lemon flatbread recipe I had bookmarked as a light dinner for my friend and I. We devoured our dinner, loving the bright lemon finish with the tangy artichokes and creamy mozzarella. I set out to tweak the recipe until I got it ‘just right.’

As much as I love to make my own pizza crust when I have the time, for this recipe, the naan bread works beautifully. Artichokes marinated in olive oil (store bought in a jar), goat cheese, mozzarella and a heavy sprinkle of lemon zest create the foundation for the flatbread. When it comes out of the oven bubbly and cheesy, you pile an arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and lots of black pepper high on the pizza. The combination of the lemony greens with the artichokes and tangy goat cheese is essentially spring in a bite. Even better, if you have the ingredients on hand, this quick meal comes together in 15-20 minutes including prep and cooking.

Spring Salad Flatbread

  • 1 Naan flatbread
  • 4-6 artichoke pieces, slightly drained, rough chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon (you will need the juice and zest)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the naan bread on a baking sheet or metal pizza pan. Spread the artichokes evenly across the flatbread. Sprinkle the cheeses, basil and red pepper flakes evenly over the flatbread. Zest half the lemon and sprinkle lemon zest on flatbread. Set lemon aside. Cook the flatbread for 10-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheeses are bubbly and melted. While the flatbread cooks, make the arugula salad. In a small bowl toss two cups of greens with lemon juice (squeeze the lemon over the greens) and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper.

When the flatbread comes out of the oven, pile as much (or little) of the salad onto the warm pizza. Slice and enjoy.